4 Common Questions a Mock Job Interview Can Help You Prepare For
Job interviews can be a daunting experience, especially if you’re interviewing for your dream job. The stakes are high, and your nerves are probably frayed. Even if you’re confident in your skills and have worked in your industry for years, it’s hard not to feel nervous when an important job interview is looming.
Talking about yourself, your goals, your successes, and your failures with a stranger—someone who, in a way, holds your future in their hands—can be overwhelming, which is why it’s best to think of a job interview as more of a conversation that helps you and your potential employer get to know each other and assess whether you’re a good match. However, even adopting that perspective doesn’t always take the pressure off. At the end of the day, a job interview remains a high-stakes meeting, and you won’t be able to fool yourself into thinking otherwise. That said, you can prepare yourself to confidently face the challenge.
Practicing your answers to common interview questions can significantly alleviate your anxiety since being prepared will boost your confidence and let you focus on listening to the interviewer and giving them thoughtful, honest answers without racking your brain. While you can’t know exactly what questions you’ll have to field, practicing for a job interview in general is immensely helpful. In many cases, you can adapt the answers you’ve formulated to fit the context of the questions you’re asked, and practice helps you do so smoothly.
The best way to get this practice is to conduct a mock job interview, which mirrors the real thing but spares you the pressure of knowing that your future job depends on the results. You’re free to mess up—make all your mistakes here so you avoid any missteps during the real interview. Mock interviews are a great way to rehearse your answers to common questions, test your outfit, correct your posture and body language, and improve the way you talk about yourself—it’s all about replicating an authentic job interview experience and playing it out so you have a better idea of how to act on the big day.
Whether you record yourself practicing in front of a mirror, do it face to face with a friend, or work online with a professional, a mock interview can be an extremely helpful exercise for anyone wishing to improve their communication skills and feel better prepared for job interviews. Regardless of how you do in your mock interview, simply having gone through the motions is bound to boost your confidence because you’ll be more familiar with the process.
If you’re nervous about an upcoming job interview, set up a mock job interview with one of our experts. You’ll get constructive feedback to help you prepare for the next big step in your career. We can even match you with a mock interviewer who’s an expert in your field, allowing you to practice answering industry-specific questions.
So, what common questions can you practice answering in a mock job interview?
1. Tell me about yourself.
Okay, this isn’t technically a question, which is what trips up so many job candidates. It’s such an open-ended prompt that it’s difficult to know how to handle it. How much does the interviewer want to know? How personal should your answers be? What should you leave out?
The first thing to consider is what this invitation to talk about yourself is really about. The interviewer doesn’t need to know your whole life story or family background, so don’t “start at the beginning” and tell them all about your childhood unless there’s a quick and poignant anecdote in there that explains why you’re so passionate about the job you’re interviewing for. If you have great (but short) stories that illustrate your skills and passion, definitely throw those out there—stories can take you far.
“Tell me about yourself” is less about you per se and more about your career, achievements, skills, and passion for the industry and the job. The interviewer wants to know who you are and why you’re the best person to fill this vacancy. So, prepare an answer that touches on your education, job history, professional background, and the skills and knowledge that make you the ideal choice for the role. Take care to keep it short—the interviewer won’t be impressed if you ramble on about barely relevant details or brag about your achievements for 10 minutes.
2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
This is a very common question and one that has made more than one job candidate sweat. Talking about your strengths can be uncomfortable because it may feel like bragging, while discussing your weaknesses can make you feel as if you’re sabotaging your job prospects. We suggest you consider this question in terms of what your greatest accomplishments and hardest lessons have been, what you learned from those experiences, and how you got through them rather than looking at it as a means of exposing your flaws. Whatever question you’re presented with, the key is to approach it with a positive attitude and use it to your advantage.
When answering this question, you can show that you can be objective about your shortcomings and that you’re aware of what you need to improve but that you also have confidence in yourself and know where you excel. It’s all about projecting healthy confidence, not self-deprecation or arrogance. So, remain self-aware, but make sure this answer makes you look good. Remember to stay focused on qualities relevant to the position you’re interviewing for and complimentary to you as a person, especially when discussing your strengths. As for your weaknesses, don’t throw out the cliché “I’m a perfectionist” or divulge how terrible you think you are at something essential for the job—focus more on legitimate weaknesses that won’t seriously affect your work performance.
3. What are your career goals and expectations?
Whether they ask you where you see yourself in five or 10 years or what you hope to achieve by the time you retire, this question is all about assessing whether your goals and priorities align with the employer’s and whether your expectations (and theirs) will be fulfilled if you’re hired. This is one of the reasons why researching the company in advance is so important—you want to know what its vision and goals are so you can tailor your answer accordingly. Obviously, you should always be truthful, but the way you frame your answer can make a huge difference.
A good way to answer this question is to focus on the skills you want to learn or improve and the accomplishments you hope to add to your list rather than the specific positions you aspire to hold one day. This is also a great way to demonstrate ambition and a commitment to lifelong learning, which employers love to see in their workers. Keep in mind that the interviewer will consider whether the job you’re interviewing for fits in with the plans you outline—even if you’re supremely qualified for the position, you may not get the job if your goals don’t align with the company’s.
4. Why do you want this job?
Of course, we all need jobs to make money, but that’s not what the interviewer is asking here. They already know you need to earn a living. What they want to know is why you’ve applied for this specific position at this particular company and why you believe you’re the ideal candidate for the role. You could have applied for countless other jobs, so what drew you to this one specifically?
They want to know that you’ve done your research on the company, that you understand its vision and culture, and that you want to help it grow. They also want to see that you’re passionate about the position and enthusiastic about the company’s mission. This is why it’s essential to do some reading before your interview and learn as much as you can about the employer and the position you’re applying for. This knowledge will also help you formulate your own questions to ask at the end of the interview. You always want to have a few questions for the interviewer since this shows engagement and interest in the job; plus, it’s a great way for you to show even more of your knowledge about the company.
Although you can’t predict exactly what you will be asked during an interview, you can practice these common questions until you feel confident in your responses. You can then modify your answers to fit whatever questions the interviewer actually asks since most job interviews will seek to extract the same sort of information. So, whether you’re new to the workforce or a seasoned professional, a mock job interview can be just the thing to give you a confidence boost and help you feel prepared for your next job interview. To learn more about setting up a mock job interview, reach out to our team of experts today!